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House of Commons Hansard
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EU Nationals in the UK
26 January 2017
Volume 620
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13. What priority he plans to accord to the future status of EU nationals in the UK during negotiations on the UK leaving the EU. [908403]

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The Prime Minister was clear in her speech that she wants to guarantee the status of EU citizens who are already in Britain and our nationals in the EU as early as she can. As I have said, she has already tried to get mutual agreement, and we will continue to try to get it.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree that that answer is extremely welcome because there is genuine and widespread concern on this issue? What problems is he encountering with a few member states that are stopping a reciprocal agreement being arrived at now?

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Truth be told, I am not 100% sure of the actual problems. In the run-in to these negotiations, the Commission and some member states have taken a very stern stance on no negotiation before notification, and they may think that such an agreement is trying to pre-empt that. That is not the intention; the intention is to act in the interests of European citizens, which after all should be the principal aim of the European Union.

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Those problems notwithstanding, there are many talented people from the European Union who have made an enormous contribution to the economy and the cultural life of our country. Surely the right hon. Gentleman agrees that he does not need an agreement with other EU member states. There is going to be an agreement, and he would get a lot of good will from the public and from our partners across the European Union if he unilaterally made that commitment today.

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I thank the hon. Gentleman for the tone in which he put his question, but we have a dual responsibility. We have a responsibility within our own country to maintain a high moral stand in what we do—I see this as a moral question—and, on the other hand, we also have a responsibility to our citizens abroad, and it is a legal responsibility as well as a moral one. We will get this resolved, and I give him an undertaking that we will resolve it as fast as we possibly can.